Trump Hits The Campaign Trail To Rally Republicans Before Midterms

May 11, 2018
Originally published on May 11, 2018 6:39 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Big foreign policy week for President Trump. He has set a date for a summit with North Korea that many people never saw coming. He welcomed home Americans who had been held hostage in North Korea. And he pulled out of an international nuclear agreement with Iran. Then, time for politics last night - a campaign rally in Elkhart, Ind. And that is where we find NPR's Don Gonyea after covering the event. Hi, Don.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Hi, David.

GREENE: So you don't need election season if you're Donald Trump. He's been - he holds these rallies. I mean, he's been doing it since he took office. But we are in an election season now.

GONYEA: We are officially in one. And look, we're just days after the Indiana primary. And the president showed last night he is eager to jump into 2018. Indiana is a conservative state. It's one Trump carried easily. But it's got a Democratic U.S. Senator, Joe Donnelly, who won six years ago mostly because of Republican disarray and infighting. But this time, he'll face a wealthy businessman, a pretty solid GOP candidate named Mike Braun. Senator Donnelly is considered vulnerable. And President Trump went after him last night, even giving him one of those insulting Trump nicknames.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: If Joe Donnelly - Sleepin' Joe - and the Democrats get back into power, remember what I said. They will raise your taxes. He wants to raise your taxes. They will destroy your jobs. And they are going to knock the hell out of your borders.

GONYEA: So in Trump world, Senator Donnelly is henceforth Sleeping Joe. He's got a nickname.

GREENE: Yeah, Senator Donnelly is probably hoping that nickname isn't much outside of Trump world. But - so did the president talk about foreign policy? Did he start crafting a message we might hear during the course of this year?

GONYEA: It seemed to be his favorite thing to talk about last night. He said everybody thought Trump would start a nuclear war. He pointed to, you know, referred to the fake media, fake news media in the back. But he said he's showing people how his approach is working. And he said as part of this, to give control of Congress back to the Democrats would be a big mistake. So Republicans have to avoid the complacency that always sets in after winning the White House.

GREENE: Did we hear the usual bashing of the special counsel, Robert Mueller?

GONYEA: So here's what's weird it. Almost didn't feel complete. There was no talk of a witch hunt last night - imagine that - no calling Mueller a Democrat even though he's a Republican. No James Comey. No Hillary Clinton. All of those have been the staples of Trump rallies, these rallies, right? Maybe he just wanted to talk about foreign policy. Maybe he wanted to demonstrate to Republicans around the country he can stay on message. Or maybe all the developments and scandals around his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, this week and his clients and the payoff of adult film actress Stormy Daniels - maybe he just wanted to stay away from all of that and decided to show some restraint.

GREENE: What about his supporters? Are they talking about all of that stuff?

GONYEA: You know, a common thing I heard about Stormy Daniels was that if the allegations of an affair are true - and nobody really seemed to try to knock that down - they would say it's a long time ago and the money paid to her is no big deal. I heard that over and over in the long line of people waiting to get in. As for Michael Cohen's troubles, Trump supporters kept telling me that that's Cohen's problem, not Trump's. They condemn the lawyer, but they don't condemn the president.

GREENE: NPR's Don Gonyea in Elkhart, Ind. Don, thanks.

GONYEA: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.